ARRL ARES Communicator's Comments - 2017-12-10

Discussion in 'Amateur Radio Emergency Communications' started by W.T. Jones, Dec 10, 2017.

  1. W.T. Jones

    W.T. Jones Moderator Staff Member Silver Member Golden GPS Recipient AtlDiv EPA Leader AtlDiv ARES Member

    Luzerne County ARES® Digital Bulletin
    "We don't rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training."
    Archilochus - Greek Poet and Soldier
    • Current WX at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport
    • Hazardous Weather Statements from National Weather Service at Binghamton, NY
    • Current Versions of Fldigi programs
    • Luzerne County ARES® Announcements
    • Luzerne County ARES®Net Control Schedule
    • Luzerne County LCARES Announcements...
    • Click Here for the Luzerne County ARES®Activities Schedule
    • Click Here for Net Schedules of Interest - updated on 10/2/2017
    • LCARES Members Operational Status - Net Stats - Bulletin Responses...
    • Weekly Image
    • An ARRL ARES®Communicator's Comments
      • Guidelines and Procedure Updates...
      • Procedure I – Skywarn Operations and Reporting
      • Procedure L – TM@EOC Equipment Checks & Maintenance
      • Reports from the Field...
    • EPA-ARRL Web site...
    • Ham Radio Links
    • Closing
    Bulletin Date: December 10, 2017
    Bulletin Number: 176

    This Bulletin is for all Amateur Radio Operators in Luzerne County and any interested Amateur Radio Station anywhere.

    Note: A copy of this Bulletin is stored on the web site in .wav file format. This file can be replayed by Fldigi and Flamp to get the complete Bulletin.

    Current WX at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International Airport
    (This information is only valid on the date of the Bulletin transmission. If you are reading this after the date of the bulletin ignore any advisories, warnings or watches.)
    Dec 10, 2017 - 05:54 PM EST / 2017.12.10 2254 UTC
    Wind: from the WSW (250 degrees) at 10 MPH (9 KT):0
    Visibility: 10 mile(s):0
    Sky conditions: overcast
    Temperature: 30.9 F (-0.6 C)
    Windchill: 23 F (-5 C):1
    Dew Point: 19.0 F (-7.2 C)
    Relative Humidity: 60%
    Pressure (altimeter): 29.92 in. Hg (1013 hPa)
    ob: KAVP 102254Z 25009KT 10SM OVC110 M01/M07 A2992 RMK AO2 SLP140 T10061072
    cycle: 23

    Hazardous Weather Statements from National Weather Service at Binghamton, NY
    (This information is only valid on the date of the Bulletin transmission. If you are reading this after the date of the bulletin ignore any advisories, warnings or watches.)
    Hazardous Weather Outlook
    National Weather Service Binghamton NY
    251 PM EST Sun Dec 10 2017

    Yates-Seneca-Southern Cayuga-Steuben-Schuyler-Chemung-Tompkins-
    Susquehanna-Northern Wayne-Wyoming-Lackawanna-Luzerne-Pike-
    Southern Wayne-
    251 PM EST Sun Dec 10 2017

    This Hazardous Weather Outlook is for central New York and
    northeast Pennsylvania.

    .DAY ONE...This Afternoon and Tonight.

    Hazardous weather is not expected at this time.

    .DAYS TWO THROUGH SEVEN...Monday through Saturday.

    Light snow will develop Monday night, lingering through Tuesday.
    Several inches of accumulation are possible, and could create
    slippery travel in spots.


    Spotter activation is not expected at this time.


    {Above Generated By Fldigi <WX> Macro Command with a little help from the Binghamton NWS web site!}
    Current Versions of Fldigi programs
    Current Versions of Fldigi Suite
    Fldigi Flmsg Flamp
    4.0.12 4.0.3 2.2.03

    Current as of: December 10, 2017. *Indicates an update in the past week.

    Latest versions available at
    Luzerne County ARES® Announcements
    - Important: The Sunday Night Bulletin is required reading for all LCARES Members.

    Luzerne County ARES®Net Control Schedule
    The Rotation Schedule for the LCARES Voice net has been posted on the Last update: November 29, 2017

    K3NDB & WB3FKP are temporarily out of the NCS rotation. Please be sure to review the NCS schedule before the upcoming nets.

    Luzerne County LCARES Announcements...
    (These will be read by the Alternate NCS during the regular weekly session of the LCARES Voice Net.)

    * - indicates that announcement should not be read on the LCARES Net.

    1. The Statistics for the LCARES Nets, Member Status, and Bulletin Reponses have been moved to a web page. The link to the page has replaced the table normally seen in the SNB.
    2. The Guidelines and Procedures on Skywarn operations and the TM@EOC Equipment Maintenance have been re-written. Please review the Guidelines and Procedures Manual at the web site.
    3. Voice WX reports given during the nets should follow the format found in the LCARES Guidelines and Procedures manual found on the web site. Do NOT give any other information such as barometer, humidity, or other readings.
    4. Member recruitment should be done by all LCARES members. We are not missionaries but we need to spread the word.
    5. Net Controls are needed for the LCARES and LCADN nets. Members who are regular check-ins and are not taking their turn at NCS will be afforded a chance to volunteer before they are drafted. All LCARES members are expected to be able to run a net.
    6. A Technical Session will be held on December 16th at the Luzerne County EOC from 1:00PM to 3:00PM. The topic will be APRS and its use.
    7. Congratulations to the Murgas Ham of the Year, Larry, KA3GRS! A well deserved honor!
    Click Here for the Luzerne County ARES®Activities Schedule
    Click Here for Net Schedules of Interest - updated on 10/2/2017
    LCARES Members Operational Status - Net Stats - Bulletin Responses...

    Weekly Image
    Man's desire to communicate still offers our best opportunity to achieve peace on earth and goodwill towards all mankind.
    William Halligan, Designer of Hallicrafters Radios
    An ARRL ARES®Communicator's Comments
    Guidelines and Procedure Updates...
    - The LCARES Guidelines and Procedures have been updated based on feedback from the TM@EOC session and from KC3FKW's comments. The two sections that have been updated are:

    Procedure I - Skywarn Operations and Reports (formerly Winter Skywarn Operations)

    Procedure L - TM@EOC Equipment Checks and Maintenance

    The Skywarn Operations was too stilted toward Winter Operations and a general procedure was needed. Based on KC3FKW's recommendations the procedure was changed to give more definitive guidance about Skywarn nets and reporting.

    The Equipment Checks worked as intended and all the LCARES members in attendance had some exposure to the problems with dealing with computers that were behind in patching. The lesson was learned. In order to make the process easier for all the updating of patches and any Fldigi upgrades have been combined into one process. This will eliminate must of the typing needed to do the upgrade.

    In addition, the requirement to entire passwords constantly has been changed. There is a facility on these computers that allows the automatic granting of administrator privileges. That has been enabled on almost all the laptops. These laptops will not for Internet functions so it is a minor security concern that gives way to an ease of use issue.

    Procedure I – Skywarn Operations and Reporting
    The Skywarn Reporting format has been finalized by the LCARES EC. Naturally, there will be voice reports and, hopefully, some will use Flmsg to send in reports.

    If any LCARES member observes a severe weather event (as listed on the Weather Reporting Card) it should be reported directly to the National Weather Service by the normal means given to Trained Observers in the Skywarn Training Classes. The LCARES Member should not wait until for a Skywarn net to open to report Severe Weather!

    General Skywarn Net Operations:

    The Net Control Station will open the Skywarn Net with this Preamble:

    This is (insert call here) activating the LCARES Skywarn Net at (insert time)

    Any station with an urgent skywarn report that requires immediate relay to the National Weather Service should contact the National Weather Service directly by the normal means.

    At this time I will take weather reports from any station. If you have a skywarn report your call only. I will call you for your report after I have a list. Call now (over).

    {After a list has been gathered – call each station for their report}

    (Their call) this is (your call) send your report in the following order: call, time of observation, type of report (rain, snow, etc.), temperature, and nature of report. If you are not at your home please follow your report with “I have location information.” (over)

    {Use the LCARES Skywarn Spreadsheet or log the info manually}

    {After the report is given remind the station that unless there is severe weather observed no further report is needed unless the station is called for additional information.)

    {Repeat the preamble until reports have been taken. Release the repeater as soon as possible. After 1 hour open the net again for any other reports.}

    Skywarn Reporting


    Skywarn is looking for specific information and not the information from your home weather station. Unless you are using calibrated instruments approved by the National Weather Service reports containing rainfall, humidity, etc., are not useful and take up valuable time. Please keep your reports to the information listed below:

    Summer Skywarn:

    The conditions that Summer Skywarn reports should contain are:

    1. Tornado or Funnel Cloud (confirm rotation)

    2. Any size hail (Dime, Penny, Nickel, Quarter, Golf Ball – do not use marbles)

    3. Damaging Winds: Extent of Damage: Trees, Power lines, etc.

    4. Flooding: Roads closed, rivers/streams close to bankful.

    5. Heavy Rain: amounts of 1 inch or more in one hour or less*

    * in this type of reporting using a non-NWS approved rain gauge to determine the amount of rainfall is approved.

    Winter Skywarn:

    There is one key point to Winter Skywarn Reporting. Unlike our Summer Skywarn Reporting the Winter version is a bit laid back. According to our guidance card this is what is desired:

    1: Newly Fallen Snow (Snow Total) Greater than 2". Try to call as close to the end of the event as possible. We would LOVE updates throughout the event but not more than once every 3 hours. An example would be to call halfway through the storm and again at the end. (Use the radar images on the NWS web site to determine how long the event will last.)

    2: HEAVY SNOWFALL RATES: Greater than 1" per hour.

    3: Persistent whiteout conditions.

    4: Any ice accumulations.

    Reporting The Observations:

    Remember: Any observation that is considered urgent should be sent immediately by the spotter to National Weather Service Office in Binghamton, NY, by the usual means. The timely arrival of the this information could save lives! If the observer cannot contact NWS Binghamton then immediately request that the Skywarn NCS do so with the report. Stay on frequency until the NCS reports that the observation report has been delivered and there are no follow-up questions.

    How to report your observations to the Skywarn NCS:

    1. Remember that the Skywarn NCS is doing a lot of writing and talking. Keep your report to the Skywarn needed information that is listed on the Skywarn cards. Do not engage the Skywarn NCS with conversation that is not related to the Skywarn function. If a station requests an conversation with another station then suggest that the 2 stations choose a convenient repeater and move to it for their conversation.

    2. Listen to the instructions of the Skywarn NCS. The NCS will repeat the needed information and the sequence to send it. Failing to follow the Skywarn NCS instructions just slows down the Skywarn Net .

    3. The general sequence of Skywarn Information should be:

    1. Your Call

    2. Time of Observation

    3. Type of report (rain, snow, etc.)

    4. Temperature

    5. Nature of report which could be amount of rain over a certain duration, funnel cloud, ice accumulation over a certain duration, or hail.

    4. If you are not at your home please follow your report with “I have location information.” The LCARES spreadsheet has the LCARES member information in it and can save the Skywarn NCS time by automatically filling in your name and address. If you are not a home please have a street address ready to give to the Skywarn NCS.

    5. After sending the information wait until the Skywarn NCS acknowledges receipt of the information. The Skywarn NCS may need more information and location information. Stay with the Skywarn NCS until he/she acknowledges everything.

    6. After you have given your report please continue to monitor the net. Once the information has been sent to the NWS they may request more information about your report.

    Using Fldigi to send a Winter Skywarn Report

    The Flmsg Storm Report Format provides a nice template for both Voice and Digital Reporting.

    As can be seen in the image everything is there that could be desired for a report. The repeating fields can be stored for quick recall using the Store/Default Button. Those repeatable fields are:

    Time Zone


    *These fields are taken from the Operator Configuration Section of Flmsg. That can be accessed via the “Config” option on the menu bar.

    Entering them the first time and pressing the Store button saves them in the Flmsg configuration file.

    The report can be filled in quickly and transmitted via Fldigi/Flmsg.

    The station receiving these reports can easily tally them into one email message for sending to the National Weather Service in Binghamton. This could be done either by just displaying them in HTML format, copying them into the LCARES Skywarn Spreadsheet, collectting by a script on the receiving system. More on that later.

    The second screen of the Flmsg Storm Report has a blank free form area for details. Skywarn needs more detail location than the Storm Report provides. So in the Details section there is additional information:

    Location (your street address or where you took the readings)


    Windspeed (if you have an accurate means of recording it)

    Wind Direction

    WX (this is a general comment about the weather conditions)

    The "NTR" means Nothing To Report which means it is what is expected. Snowing, raining, whatever.

    Some of our LCARES members own weather stations. Do not copy and paste the conditions from your weather software! Just type in what is listed. Barometric pressure, etc., is not needed nor is it desired unless you are part of the NWS Cooperative Weather Observer Program and have the proper instrumentation to accurately record that kind of information.

    Just for the record, the NWS is a very picky about its readings and the normal stations that you see reporting to the Citizens Weather Observation Program (CWOP) and the Weather Underground cannot be used for reporting weather information. If you want to do accurate weather reporting beyond what a storm spotter will do then go to Weather Your Way and get the proper instruments.

    Why use Flmsg to do this?

    Winter Skywarn is a different beast. Taking the Skywarn reports on voice, and this will still be done, is something that ties everyone involved to a tight schedule. Things happen like the need to go get your dog out of a snow bank, your wife out of a ditch or vice versa, shovel snow, or a well deserved nap. You can send the report and forget it. The station at W3LUZ will capture it and the NCS can send them on to the NWS at the appropriate time.

    During the regular LCARES Voice Net and the LCADN weather reports will be sent for practice purposes.

    The Assistant Net Control Station for each net will be responsible for taking the Skywarn Reports.

    During a Skywarn Net the NCS will be responsible for taking the reports. That is the purpose of the Skywarn net and no other traffic will be handled.

    A note about mobile stations; a mobile stations report is always welcome but if we look at the required reports for Winter Skywarn it appears that mobile reports must be limited to road conditions. The mobile operator cannot measure snowfall and if there is a whiteout condition or ice then the mobile operator should be concentrating on driving and not reporting. However, road reports are of interest to LCEMA so quick reports like that will be taken. The mobile operator should save the rest of the information until he/she arrives safely at home.

    Procedure L – TM@EOC Equipment Checks & Maintenance
    NEW – December 7, 2017

    The following Equipment Checks and Maintenance will be performed by the LCARES Members during their weekly TM@EOC session.

    LCARES Main Computer

    Check the computer display for any indication that Operating System Patches are waiting to be installed. If patches are waiting install them.

    Close all open programs

    Power down the computer system

    Restart the computer system from power down

    After the APRS programs have started restart the Fldigi and Flamp programs

    Test the Fldigi program by clicking on the “tune” button and insuring that the Signalink for the FT-8800 goes into transmit.

    Spectrum Handi-Talkies

    Each Spectrum HT will be removed its charging base and turned on.

    A simplex frequency will be selected and a radio check will be done to insure that the HT does indeed transmit.

    The HTs will be left turned on, out of the charging bases, for at least 15 minutes.

    At the end of 15 minutes and other transmit test will be done to insure that the HT still transmits.

    Any HT that does not transmit will be marked with a piece of blue masking tape with the current date written on it. The HT will not be returned to the charger. The HT will be placed in the desk cubicle under the HF APRS radio.

    If the HT passes the 2nd transmit test it will be returned to the charging base.

    If the HT does not begin a charge cycle it will be removed from the base, marked with a piece of blue masking tape, and placed in the desk cubicle under the HF APRS Radio.

    Laptop Computers

    All laptop computers will be moved to the EOC meeting (if the EOC meeting room is occupied then this procedure will be done in the LCARES Room), power cord inserted, and the laptop powered up.

    Each laptop will be observed to ensure that the laptop powers up, automatically logs on, and starts the Fldigi program. Any laptop that does not complete the power up process will be brought to the attention of the LCARES EC.

    Close the Fldigi program.

    The LCARES member doing the testing will connect the Laptop to the EOC’s wireless node. This should happen automatically. If it does not then bring it to the attention of the LCARES EC.

    The Operating System Patch Update and the Update for Fldigi has been combined into one process.

    1. Check for any changes in version for the Fldigi Programs.

    If there are changes to the Fldigi versions complete this step otherwise skip to Step 2.

    (This table is an example of the Sunday Night Bulletin’s Information. It is not current. Every LCARES member should have this information available by reading the Sunday Night Bulletin.)

    (Note any of the programs with an * and the version number)

    Using the File Manager utility open the “fl_build” directory in the home directory.

    In the “fl_build” directory locate the fl_install_script file.

    Double-click on the fl_install_script and it will open in the editor.

    FLDIGI=4.0.12 #<-- change to current version

    FLAMP=2.2.03 #<-- change to current version

    #FLWRAP=1.3.4 #<-- change to current version

    FLMSG=4.0.3 #<-- change to current version

    The bold numbers are the program versions. Change any program whose version numbers do not match the information in the Sunday Night Bulletin.

    After making the changes:

    Save the fl_install_script file.

    Exit the editor program

    Exit the file manager

    2. Run the Script to apply the updates and update the Fldigi programs.

    Press CTRL-ALT-T to open a terminal window

    Type the following commands:

    cd fl_build {enter}

    ./fl_install_script {enter}

    When the script finishes a message indicating a successful upgrade will be displayed above the prompt. If this message is not present notify the LCARES EC.

    When the Laptap updates have completed power down the Laptop and return it and its power supply to its Go-kit

    FT-2DR Handi-Talkies

    Every FT-2DR Handi-Talkie will be power up and the battery indicator checked. If the battery indicator shows that some discharge has occurred then the Handi-Talkie will be put on a charger for the duration of the time of the TM@EOC.

    If the FT-DR’s battery has not discharged check to see if the go-kit contains a backup battery pack of the same type that is mounted on the FT-2DR. If one is available swap the batteries and power up the FT-2DR to check to see if the backup battery has been discharged. If it has then put it on a charger.


    Inventory the Go-Kits

    All go-kits will have an inventory sheet inside the side pocket. Each go-kit will be inventoried and any discrepancy reported to the LCARES EC.

    At the completion of the Equipment Checks and Maintenance all components will be returned to their respective go-kits.

    Reports from the Field...
    During the December 6th PEMA Weather Drill N1ZZZ and N3SRO performed testing one of the go-kits. This is the kind of information that is needed. First, it lets me know what is not correct and needs to be purchased, fixed, redone, or otherwise corrected. Next, it provides at least two of our operators with practical hands-on experience. That is invaluable.

    Here is N1ZZZ's report on the testing.

    Go-kit 1261

    Intended mission:
    The kit is an all-in-one VHF/UHF voice, APRS and FLdigi comm system that is readily deployable, and easily assembled, which provides on-scene comms back to the EOC from a portable or mobile platform.

    General description:
    Kit 1261 is outfitted for mobile or portable use to enable 5W of output on 2M and 440M. The radio provides FM, Fusion digital voice, and APRS capabilities. Standard programming has GPS and APRS beaconing enabled to allow for tracking which is relayed to the EOC. The ICS-217a (dated 4/2/17) frequency list is currently programmed into the radio and the unit works well simplex and to the local repeaters on both bands.
    A Signalink and Linux computer outfitted with the FLdigi suite is included in the kit with the associated cables. FL digi tests work well with FLmsg and FLAmp.
    Dual band antennas include the stock rubber duckie, a 2M-¼ wave rubber duckie, and a 2M-¼ wave mobile antenna and mag mount (NMO). 75 feet of coax in 2 rolls along with a barrel connector are provided. SMA to UHF and BNC adapters are also included.
    Power options for the radio include 2 stock batteries, one replaceable cell pack (reduced power) and one 12V/6-AH LiFePO4 battery. The computer internal battery has limited life and requires 120V AC shore power for use over 1 hour. A cigarette lighter and 120V cradle charger for the H-t are also included. The radio can run while on the cigarette lighter power supply.

    Functions tested:
    oVoice on FM via repeater and simplex
    oAPRS beaconing (W3LUZ-11) and messaging in and out
    oFL digi on 2M simplex

    Gear tested:
    §Main radio with battery #1, #2, disposable cells, 12V car charger/supply
    §FM voice simplex and repeater (Both bands)
    §APRS beaconing and messages on 2M
    §Mobile antenna
    §Long rubber duckie
    §Short rubber duckie
    §25’ coax
    §50’ coax
    §Computer with FLdigi, FLMsg, FLAmp
    §Signal link
    §Base unit charger
    §USB microphone
    §Computer battery (approx. 1 hour running FLdigi)
    §LiFoPO4 battery (0.8 A load drained 5.4 AH before voltage dropped below 13V. Around 5.7 AH, the cell voltage dropped to 10V and was taken off-line and recharged.)

    Need to test
    Fusion function

    Major issues
    •FLDigi can only be operated from area with 120V AC power.
    •No connection available for external battery

    Minor Issues
    •Need to make inventory list (corrected)
    •No APRS manual for radio (not included in main manual)
    •FLdigi macros not current (corrected)
    •FLAMP configuration not set up (corrected)
    •APRS callsign not programmed (corrected)
    •Update programming to IC-217a 12/17 once approved
    •No base antenna (is this by design?)
    •No AA cells for emergency battery pack.
    •Add 100W battery inverter to the kit to provide 120V AC from mobile platform. This will enable FLdigi message from on-scene locations as well as battery charging OR alternatively update computer with longer life battery.
    •Provide PowerPole connector for cigarette charger to enable use of external battery pack or standard cigarette lighter input.
    •Provide 6 single use lithium AA cells in the kit to power battery pack as last resort power.
    •Print out copy of APRS manual and carry in kit

    Jeremy Allen N1ZZZ

    EPA-ARRL Web site...
    - If you have not done it yet then what are you waiting for? Get to the EPA-ARRL web site and either submit your email address or like it on Facebook. It is the place to get the information and news about the EPA Section.

    Ham Radio Links
    N3LLR's Ham Radio Forum
    ARRL Eastern PA Section Web Site
    Luzerne County ARES®
    Harris County Texas ARES® - A great training resource
    Lake County (OH) RACES Personal Go-Kit for Emergency Operations - KE7LHR
    MecklenBurg County ARES® and RACES
    K0BG - The Website for Mobile Amateur Radio Operators (Perhaps the best web site on mobile operations I have found!)
    Origins of Ham Speak - Fact, Legends, and Myths??? - Compiled by AC6V from the Internet and other unreliable sources
    The Petite Prepper
    The VOA Radiogram
    Luzerne County ARES Facebook Page <-- New
    Thank you for copying our weekly digital information Bulletin to all Amateur Radio Operators.

    Send reception reports and comments to

    Have a good week everyone!


    ARRL EPA Section Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL EPA District 3 District Emergency Coordinator
    ARRL ARES® Emergency Coordinator
    Luzerne County ARES®
    ARES and "Amateur Radio Emergency Services" are registered service marks owned by the American Radio Relay League, The National Association of Amateur Radio. Use of these service marks is by permission only.
  2. wedgar

    wedgar Administrator Staff Member Gold Member


Share This Page